New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith needed only one word Monday to describe his confidence level as he prepares to take on Michael Vick. Asked if he expects to be the starting quarterback, Smith replied succinctly: "Yes."
And so it begins.
The Smith-Vick quarterback competition was the hot issue as the Jets opened their offseason program, and it will continue to burn for the next four months. The Jets signed Vick to "push" Smith, a diplomatic way of saying they're not completely sold on the second-year quarterback.
Smith, speaking to the New York media for the first time since the Vick-for- Mark Sanchez shakeup, said he doesn't perceive the organization's decision to sign Vick as a lack of faith in him. Asked to elaborate on why he's so confident, considering he committed 25 turnovers as a rookie, Smith said last year "does wonders for me" in terms of experience.
"[It's] my belief in myself, knowing I'm going to take every action possible to get better and come into the season a better player," he said, adding:
"It's going to come down to production on the field. I just believe that, with the experience I've gained, and with the direction we were heading in as an offense and where I see myself as a second-year player ... I just feel I'm more than capable of being a starter."
Smith started every game last season, helping the Jets to a surprising 8-8 record, but he was wildly inconsistent over the first 12 games. The Jets cut Sanchez and signed Vick to a one-year, $4 million contract this offseason. Vick refers to Smith as the starting quarterback, but the coaching staff hasn't made any pronouncements.
"I respect what Mike said, but I understand there's a competition," Smith said. "It comes down to what we do on the field. ... I look forward to competing against a guy like Mike because he himself has been a starter and is still capable at the age he is . He still runs fast. He stills throws accurately, with great velocity. And he's a very, very smart quarterback, in my opinion."
Vick has four years of background in Marty Mornhinweg's offense -- their time together with the Philadelphia Eagles -- so that could give him an edge in the competition. Smith's advantage is that he's younger, has more upside and still could be the team's long-term answer.
"I think his physical skills are going to push Geno," Rex Ryan said. "It's not like you don't have a great quarterback sitting right there, pushing you, because that's what he'll do. He'll push you. He's a tremendous player, a very talented guy. It will be great for Geno."
Center Nick Mangold said Vick "has that veteran experience, and you can't discount that." Vick also has experienced durability and turnover issues in recent years, so he's hardly a sure thing.
The front office has made an attempt to improve the supporting cast, signing running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker. Ryan said Johnson gives them "unbelievable depth" at tailback, saying the former 2,000-yard rusher will be used with Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and, possibly, Mike Goodson, who is recovering from major knee surgery.
Johnson underwent recent arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will be limited in the offseason. Ryan declined to spell out Johnson's role, saying, "Nothing was ever promised like, 'You're going to see X number of carries.' "
If healthy, Johnson adds a breakaway threat in the backfield, a "highlight reel waiting to happen," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. Smith called him a "home-run hitter."
The Jets didn't hit many home runs last season, finishing 29th in scoring offense. Smith didn't have many weapons, but he refused to use that as an alibi for his subpar performance.
"It all came to me honestly," said Smith, who went six straight games without a touchdown pass. "If I had done a lot of things better, we'd have done better as an offense. It showed throughout the year, but that has come and gone."